Green Bay Packers draft grades: Round 1

 

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6) moves in for a tackle. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6) moves in for a tackle. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

 

All the offseason excitement and buildup peaked fans of the NFL and the Green Bay Packers last Thursday night with the opening of the 2014 NFL draft.

Thirty-two teams from across the National Football League and their fans were on their toes for three straight days.

Now we are in the afterglow phase. Fans are reveling in each and every pick and the media has now turned to analyzing and over-analyzing each rookie. As a fan and self-proclaimed Citizen GM of the Green Bay Packers … I feel it is my duty to answer the bell by adding to the pre-season drama.

Over the next seven weeks and leading into the NFL preseason, I will be analyzing each of the nine draft picks that make up this year’s crop of the Green Bay Packers rookie class. Included in my assessment will be:

  • A short background on each player;
  • Collegiate accomplishments;
  • Immediate 2014 expectations;
  • Long-term expectations; and
  • Overall draft grade

It’s time we met the new additions to the Green and Gold!

“With the 21st pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers select …”

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, Free Safety — University of Alabama

Meet and Greet

HaHa Clinton-Dix Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports photograph

HaHa Clinton-Dix
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix was born Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and was born Dec. 21, 1992 … a native of Orlando, Fla. His grandmother started calling him “Ha-Ha” when he was a little kid and he has kept the nickname since. He started his high school football career as a running back, but switched to the defensive back position when he transferred high schools his junior year.

He was highly regarded as a big-time college recruit and landed at Alabama. He was a two-year starter at the free safety position under Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide and became an overnight sensation turned obsession among fans of the Green Bay Packers after a sour loss to the 49ers in the 2013 playoffs.

He has had a small bout of off-field issues, serving a meek two-game suspension in October 2013, though he has pledged to NFL scouts during interviews that he is dedicated and focused on being a stand-up and stand-out NFL player. Apart from off-field troubles, Clinton-Dix also underwent minor meniscus surgery to round out his junior season. He decided to forego his senior season at Alabama and declare himself eligible for the 2014 NFL draft.

Show Me the Stats

After being recruited into the program at the University of Alabama, Clinton-Dix became one of seven true freshmen who saw playing time in 2011. While he didn’t start, he did make an appearance in all 13 games played that year, adding 11 total tackles and 2 passes defensed to the start of his collegiate resume. He enjoyed a rather fruitful sophomore year, however; he became a full-time starter and stayed healthy the entire year in the defensive backfield. He registered 5 interceptions and 9 passes defensed in 14 games with the Crimson Tide. In his troublesome 2013 season, he added 2 interceptions to his tally amidst suspension and injury.

What Can You Do For Me Now?

It is widely accepted that Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix will be an immediate upgrade in a spotty defensive backfield for the Green Bay Packers. After worse-than-poor safety play throughout the entire 2013 season, fans were calling for the heads of Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings. McMillian and Jennings have departed for … new beginnings elsewhere. After being highly disappointed in the Wild Card matchup against the 49ers, immediate attention was brought to safety workhorses, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor; though the mass consensus was that Ha-Ha was the better fit in Green Bay.

At Alabama, the Crimson Tide ran a mixture of 3-4 and 4-3 packages, allowing Clinton-Dix the experience in both schemes. It was, at one time this offseason, thought that the Packers may switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 again, to try and revamp a defense that left much to be desired in 2013. It is unclear as to the extent of the truth behind that theory, but either way, Clinton-Dix will be ready. The Crimson Tide boasts one of the closest NFL-ready learning experiences, making Ha-Ha a shoo-in to start opposite Morgan Burnett this upcoming season.

What Will You Do For Me Later?

The pick in Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is as much an immediate upgrade as it is a long-term solution. Morgan Burnett just got paid and is living off of a 4-year contract that (so far) has been riddled with injuries and suspect play. It may be the case that he is needing a stable partner at safety, to solidify his own level of achievement on the field. Side-by-side with Clinton-Dix, Burnett is sure to return to pre-injury form. Clinton-Dix is a ranger, a ball-hawk and has the opportunity to be the free safety of the future for the Packers.

Casey Hayward Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Casey Hayward
Raymond T. Rivard photograph

This move was significant for the future of the secondary, as it allows Micah Hyde the flexibility to be moved around the field. His play was a major upside last year and with the return of Casey Hayward, Hyde’s flexibility between corner and safety is good news. Long-term benefits also include stabilization and camaraderie in the secondary. Tramon Williams talked about how a lack of a stable depth chart and veteran leadership was a cause of the disconnect at corner and safety last year. It’s time we set some things in stone. With Sam Shields re-signed and Clinton-Dix plugged in, things are looking up for the future.

Overall Draft Grade

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix was the best player available on the board at the 21st pick in the first round, Thursday night. Ted Thompson did what he does best: he married need and value, perfectly. It was speculated that Clinton-Dix would go much higher than he did, as he was arguably the best safety in his draft class, fortune landing him in the lap of the Green Bay Packers near the end of the first round.

He is a solid tackler, at 210 pounds and stands tall at 6-1, taller than both Tramon Williams and Sam Shields at corner. While his measurables weren’t exactly eye-popping at the combine, he plays much better than he tests. He is a fluid defensive back with great angles, and a high sense of where the ball is going to be. He is disciplined in the backfield and has the ability to be solo over the top or play in tandem with Burnett.

He will be a great addition to the Green Bay Packers defensive unit and makes them more formidable from the get-go.

OVERALL FIRST ROUND DRAFT GRADE: A

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